Ever since we started the Voter Participation Center more than a decade ago, we've honored National Voter Registration Day. It's always been an important day for us, but never more so than this year. That's because in 2016, for the first time ever, people of color, young Americans and unmarried women will likely cast over half of all the ballots in the presidential election. Think about that. For the first time in our nation's history, the most diverse electorate ever will enter voting booths on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. They will look more like the real America, and drive their own destinies.
But the first step starts tomorrow, with National Voter Registration Day. At the Voter Participation Center, we are dedicated to increasing the civic engagement of unmarried women, people of color and Millennials--the three demographic groups who comprise the Rising American Electorate (RAE), also called the New American Majority. We have helped 2.6 million Americans register to vote in the last decade, and see a direct line between registration and voting.
There are about 125 million eligible voters in the RAE, or 57% of the vote-eligible population in this country. A true majority. But as our new research with Lake Research Partners makes clear, we have heavy lifting to do to make sure that the RAE is voting--and registering--in proportion to their share of the population. As of last year, the percentage of voting-age RAE members who were not registered to vote was daunting:
Not Registered to Vote:
Unmarried Women: 40%
African Americans: 37%
Averaged out, about 42% of all RAE members failed to register last year, compared to just 26% for other non-RAE Americans.
Getting more of the RAE to register is crucial, and it kicks this week. That's when the VPC and its partners will start sending out 1.4 million voter registration forms and other pieces of mail to encourage the RAE to register. Over the entire presidential campaign, our goal is to register between 1 million to 1.5 million new voters.
As more and more states pass laws to restrict free and open voting, we should be mindful of the dark days in America when it was dangerous, and in some cases impossible, for women and people of color to register. Few remember those days as vividly as Congressman and Civil Rights hero John Lewis. "Many were harassed, jailed, beaten, and some were even killed for trying to participate in the democratic process," Lewis recalls. Sure, it's important to remember the sacrifices of the pioneers who came before us. But registering to vote is not only about honoring our past. It's also about defining our future so it reflects the values and voices of most Americans and delivers on the promise of majority rule.
So register to vote! Ask your friends and family if they're registered. We show you how to do it here, at www.voterparticipation.org, or you can log onto the Secretary of State's website for your current state. Your power is in your vote... and the first step is to register!